Despite serving a suspension over drug use, Bulldogs star Bailey Smith is set to sign a blockbuster contract extension after returning to training on Wednesday morning.
Smith is serving a two-match from the AFL after photos and videos emerged last week of him snorting a white powder – and the star midfielder subsequently admitted to illicit drug use in an interview with the league.
The AFL also gave Smith a ‘strike’ under the league’s illicit drug policy.
He was already serving a two-match suspension for headbutting Geelong defender Zach Tuohy in a spiteful round 12 clash.
Bailey Smith returns to training for the Western Bulldogs after the ‘white powder’ scandal
Smith, pictured on Wednesday morning, is currently serving a suspension for the incident
Neither incident has appeared to damage his chances of signing a big extension, with Smith out of contract at the end of the season.
Bulldogs CEO Ameet Bains said the club was in ‘promising’ discussions with Smith’s manager, Paul Connors.
‘We don’t think it should have too much impact,’ he told 3AW’s Sportsday about the midfielder’s drug ban.
‘We had made a fair bit of progress with his manager, Paul Connors, in the last two to three weeks, so hopefully that momentum can keep going.’
Bailey Smith was filmed snorting a white powder at the end of the 2021 season
Bains was also keen to point out that the white powder incident was not a recent event, and he was confident Smith had learned, and would grow, from the experience.
‘The important part is … the incident was from last year. While the club didn’t have any knowledge of any vision being in existence until it came to our attention last weekend, that period that Bailey was dealing with late last year that led to the poor decision-making was something we knew about and dealt with at the time,’ he said.
‘To his credit, he’s put a lot of things in place over the last six to eight months to deal with that, and his on-field performance has reflected that.’
Smith looked as fit as ever on the training track with his Bulldogs teammates on Wednesday morning, and will hope to return to his scintillating 2022 form when the Bulldogs take on St Kilda on July 15.
Bailey Smith catches the ball during a Western Bulldogs training session on Wednesday
Before he was suspended, Smith was producing elite midfield numbers, averaging 31.6 disposals and 7.6 score involvements per game despite the Bulldogs’ inconsistent performances putting them at 10th on the ladder.
A number of star Bulldogs have already signed mammoth contract extensions this season, including Tim English, Jack Macrae and Caleb Daniel – so securing the 21-year-old Smith’s signature would be a huge coup for the 2021 grand finalists.
The incident for which Smith was suspended happened following the disappointing grand final loss, and Bains said the club was ‘aware this type of behaviour does exist’ post-season.
‘I think we’d be naive to think that given the societal issues facing 18-25-year-old men and women and what they get up to socially that our playing cohort wouldn’t be caught up in that, particularly in their off-season,’ he said.
‘But it’s very difficult to be precise about the numbers.’
Bailey Smith pictured with a bag of white powder after the Bulldogs grand final loss
Smith has been in superb form for the Bulldogs throughout 2022
Smith admitted he had struggled after the whopping 74-point loss to Melbourne in the 2021 grand final.
‘I do not have an excuse for those behaviours, however the state of my mental health over that period post-Grand Final dramatically deteriorated, and I spiralled out of control leading to poor decision making and actions at the time,’ he said in an official club statement.
The Bulldogs were not the only organisation to stand strong with Bailey Smith after the incident, with sponsor Cotton On also indicating they were keen to support the young star.
‘Cotton On will continue to support Brand Ambassador Bailey Smith during this tough time. Although we do not condone his recent behaviour, we will stand behind him,’ said a company spokeswoman.
Bailey Smith is a brand ambassador for iconic fashion company Cotton On